By Beki Pineda
BRILLIANT TRACES. Written by Cindy Lou Johnson; directed by Craig A. Bond. Produced by Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton St., Aurora) through March 5. Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or www.vintagetheatre.org.
The premise is simple: A man who has isolated himself in a cabin in the wilds of Alaska has his space invaded in the middle of a snowstorm by a freezing woman in a wedding gown. Start from there and see where it leads you. Why is this guy living by himself in the middle of nowhere? Where did this woman come from and why is she so inappropriately dressed? Was it her own wedding she left? Where is she supposed to be going? What is he going to do about her?
Ms. Johnson’s script answers these questions and throws in a few new ones for good measure before the story is over. The man, Henry (Christian Mast), presents himself before she arrives as pensive, lonely, but under control. After her arrival, he seems to fall into the role of caregiver with ease and familiarity, leading us to think he has had a loving relationship in his past. As their stories unfold, we learn that Henry has deliberately cut himself off from human contact and is running from his past. His social awkwardness leads him to behave inappropriately at times because, it seems, he’s not quite sure what is expected of him.
Rosannah, on the other hand, is a force of nature, babbling incoherently about her drive from Arizona to Alaska alone without stopping except to get gas, use the bathroom and get a candy bar. (She dismisses her shaking hands as a “Mars Bar tremble.”) After she has slept, changed into some of Henry’s clothes and eaten some of his soup, she figures out that she’s going to have to talk to him. This causes her to try to escape back into the snowstorm and creates their first argument. They are both running from themselves and don’t want to look at the things that hurt them. But the power of isolation leads them both into confession and the discovery of the power of taking chances.
Christian brings a quiet certainty and sadness to his role as Henry. While his pain over past events is real and has left the “brilliant traces” of scars, his ability to control the environment of his life has provided a type of solace for him. But you are left with the sense that unless Rosannah had come into his life, it might never have changed or grown. She may break the pattern and lead him to new directions.
Maggie Stacy plays Rosannah with a desperation and manic energy that go over the top at times. She is not helped by the rambling, sometimes nonsensical dialogue the script gives her to speak. There are times when you in the audience are just gliding along following the story. Then, all of a sudden, you have to stop and ask yourself, “What the heck is she talking about?” She’s flying ahead of the car when she’s driving; she’s floating above the trunk she’s sitting on. Slowly, in bits and pieces, her story comes out involving her wedding and her father who suffers from dementia. She falls into a semi-glazed, somewhat crazed look that makes you think her body may be here in Alaska, but her mind is back in Arizona. Then she will jolt back to the present dazed and confused.
There’s an interesting story being told with no way of predicting the ending—which I love. I hate it when an ending is projected or foreshadowed to death before it arrives. There’s a lot of energy expended on getting to the end of the story . . . but then you realize it’s not really the end, more of another beginning.
Craig Bond directed this bundle of energy AND designed the set. Congratulations must go to him and his building crew of Gov, Jeff, Don, Julie and Biz for the beautiful cabin in the woods they created. To lend authenticity, there’s even an extra supply of firewood and a chair on the cabin’s snow-covered front porch. It’s easy to see why Henry would look forward to his time in the cabin; he has Scotch, food and books. What more could you ask for?
WOW factor: 8.5